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Full text of "The Gay Genius"

THE ART OF PAINTING                      245

For the basis of these vital lines, the calligraphist goes back to nature,
^lature's lines always suggest movement, and their variety is rich and
infinite. There is one type of beauty in the smooth body of a grey-
I hound, built for fast running, and another type of beauty in the hairy,
:, squatty lines of an Irish terrier. One can admire the light agility of a
-young deer, and at the same time the massive muscular strength of a
lion's paw. A deer's body is beautiful not only as a harmonious con-
tour but because it suggests leaping motion, and a lion's paw is
beautiful because it suggests pouncing, and it is these functions of
pouncing and leaping that give organic unity to the lines. When it
comes to beauty of rhythm as such, one can admire the unwieldy form
of an elephant, or the wriggling tension of a snake, or even the lanky
$nd awkward movement of a giraffe. Nature's rhythms are, therefore,
always functional, because the lines and contours are resuks of a pro-
cess of growth and serve a definite purpose. Through the rich rhythms
of nature, the utmost sophistication in appreciation becomes possible.
It is exactly these rhythms of nature that the Chinese calligraphist tries
to imitate in his brush movements, and obviously they can be copied
only by the sensitive brush. Some strokes, firm and well rounded,
suggest the massive power of a lion's paw, some the sinewy strength
of a horse's leg, where the bones and joints are clear. Some try to
suggest a clean-cut neatness and the characters have well-shaped shoul-
pers and waists and supports, like a woman perfectly formed, or as the
Chinese critics say: "Like a beauty wearing a fresh flower in her hair."
Some copy the inimitable grace of a dried vine ending in a gentle, rest-
ful curl, with a few delicate leaves for balance. It should not be for-
gotten that the balance of a withered hanging vine is naturally perfect
because the shape and angle of inclination of the tip depends upon the
total weight of the vine, the support of the stalk, and the weight of
the remaining leaves on one side or the other.

Su Tungpo said that his friend Wen Tung practised the art of
calligraphy a long time without success until one day, walking alone
on a mountain path5 he came across two fighting snakes. Getting his
inspiration from the rhythm of the fighting snakes, he incorporated
their sinuous movement into his style of calligraphy. Another calli-
grapher once learned the secret of rhythm when he watched a wood-
cutter and a country girl meeting each other on a narrow path. Both
of them hesitated and both of them tried to give way to the other and
both of them were confused, not knowing who was to stop still and
let the other pass. This momentary back and forward movement of
the two persons produced a certain tension and play and counter-
play and was said to have enabled the calligrapher to understand for
the first time the principles of his art.

Carried over to painting, this riotous yet harmonious rhythm of